DETROIT - What began as a celebratory night for the Red Wings, who watched former defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom’s jersey ascend to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena, ended in another late-game collapse.
Detroit earned one point in the 3-2 overtime loss to Colorado, but gave up the game-winning goal with just 32 seconds remaining in the extra period. The loss marked the club’s second straight defeat decided in the last minute of play.
"Moving forward, down the stretch, looking to get into the playoffs, you can't be having the little gaffes like that,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “You've got to stay mentally strong from myself out. We gotta do a better job in the last minute of periods."
It’s a problem that the Wings have been struggling with throughout the entire season. The team has given up 25 goals in the first or last minute of periods in 21 games, winning only five of those contests. Since the Olympic break, the Red Wings have surrendered five goals in the first or last minute of a period, including three against New Jersey Tuesday.
“It’s a work in process,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “I think that the more frustrated you get you’re not going to help anybody, especially not yourself so we just have to stay positive and believe in the process and keep believing in ourselves.”
Despite Detroit’s struggles to seal victories, the club has secured five points in its last four games and currently sits in the second wild-card spot behind Tampa Bay.
“Since the Olympic break we played three of our four games really well and the other game went right down to the wire,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I must have said to the coaches on the bench I thought we were playing real well (Thursday). I thought we had good jump. We had contributions from everyone.”
Babcock wasn’t the only one who took away many positives from the loss.
"I thought we did a lot of great things tonight,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “It's important to remember that we still got a point, it keeps us in the race here. It doesn't matter, every single night we gotta find a way to get points."
Detroit will have another chance to earn two points Friday night, when the club faces New Jersey for the second time this week. The Devils currently sit two points behind the Wings in the playoff picture.
“It’s a big game,” Babcock said. “I just looked at the standings board, we’re up two points on them with a game in hand. Just like last night, our ability to get a point put us back in the playoff picture. We have to continue grinding.”
The newest member of Detroit’s roster, center Dave Legwand, can’t wait to get back on the ice again.
“I like back to back,” Legwand said. “It should be good. Practices at this time of the year are far and few between after Christmas practices kind of dwindle down and games are kind of squeezed in as well. We’re excited to play games and win hockey games.”
INJURY UPDATE: Center Darren Helm, who began experiencing headaches after taking a hard hit against the Senators Feb. 27, expects to be out a minimum of one week. Helm hit his head against the ice and was also grazed on the chin in Ottawa, and the symptoms carried over to Detroit’s matchup against New Jersey Tuesday.
“The Jersey game I got a headache, it wasn’t killing me, the headache itself wasn’t keeping me out of the game,” Helm explained. “I was having troubles with vision, seeing the puck. I was told it was kind of migraine symptom that could have been caused by the head as well.”
The center didn’t return for the third period against the Devils, and also missed Thursday’s game against Colorado. Helm hasn’t been experiencing many common concussion symptoms, though, and hopes to begin working out Saturday.
“I think (Saturday) I’ll have the green light to jump on the bike and get going a little bit,” Helm said. “Then we take it from there. The game plan was 2-3 days on a bike, then maybe jump on the ice after that and get a couple skates in without any issues.”
Helm has seven goals and five assists in 29 games this season.
LINEUP CHANGES: Jonas Gustavsson will start in goal against New Jersey in place of Jimmy Howard. Gustavsson earned a victory in Ottawa Feb. 27 in his first appearance following the Olympic break. The goaltender has a 14-4-3 record in 23 games this season.
Defenseman Jakub Kindl, who has missed the past six games with an MCL sprain, will return to Detroit’s lineup Friday. To make room on the roster for Kindl, defenseman Brian Lashoff will be a healthy scratch.
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea
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